Let’s face it, every company considering any new products or services wants to know what alternatives are out there. This is especially true when it’s an important relationship for a key area of your business; such as your online presence.
It’s no surprise that any small business looking for a new website, or to improve their Internet presence, is going to do their due diligence when looking for any solution. When it comes to your website and presence, small businesses have four options they could pursue.
1. Do nothing
In this digitally driven world, it may seem that every small business has a website – but more than half actually don't. It’s a fair question to ask yourself: Do I need a website? A website, or a more complete well-managed Internet presence, does take time, money and some effort. Is it worth it? While the answer is most likely yes, it’s never a bad idea to be clear on exactly why, or why not.
- No cost.
- No headache.
- No change to the way you do things.
- You may be losing business to competitors who have a well managed Internet presence and website.
- Even if your business is driven by referrals you don’t know about the ones who never contact you, because they can’t find and review your company on the Web.
- Existing advertising such as Yellow Pages might be working today, but will they be working tomorrow?
2. Do-It-Yourself website
One alternative many small businesses look at is creating and managing their own website.
- Low, fixed cost.
- No vendors or agencies to select and work with.
- You have complete control over the entire process.
- Time to learn the DIY website Content Management System (CMS).
- Getting professional results may be harder than it looks and may take specialized tools such as Adobe Photoshop or require knowledge such as HTML and CSS.
- Learning about Web design and development may take time away from more important aspects of managing your business.
3. Custom website design and development
Today, the chief go-to resource for most small businesses looking for a professional website is to work with a website design and development company or team.
- Complex business and technical requirements can be met, through custom solutions. If you do have something unique, this might be the best way to go; expensive but it meets your needs.
- If it’s important for your brand to have a unique, cutting-edge design, working with a talented designer can make all the difference.
- Your website is, or is part of your product or service. If your website isn’t just information, or even a shopping cart, but your actual product then most likely you’re going to be doing this in-house. If you outsource you’d want an experienced design or development team, where you have complete control of the functions and control of the website.
- This is the most expensive option with typical projects costing between $5,000 and $25,000. As with many projects, there can be cost overruns which are hard to predict and budget for.
- Most web design and development agencies are not in the update business. If you want to make updates or changes, you'll likely have to pay.
- At the lower end of the price range the agencies tend to not be full service, so you may need to find your own copywriter, or do this yourself.
- While the agency will most likely have project managers, you do need to attend meetings, review work and ensure the project is on track and budget. This takes some time and will move your focus away from running your business.
- When the project is over, you might have a great website, but now you need to keep it up to date.
4. Total solution or industry specific agency
There are a number of companies, like Pronto, that provide more complete services designed to make it easy and affordable for a small business to improve their Web presence. In most cases they focus on a specific industry, such as dentists or real estate, with tailored solutions. Other’s like Pronto cater to a broad spectrum of businesses and organizations.
Typically these agencies provide many of the elements of an effective online presence, from start-to-finish, and ongoing support and updates. Many provide some or all of their services on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- Low, fixed cost.
- Full service from hosting to design to support.
- Update service.
- One-stop shop.
- Might not be able to meet all of your custom requirements.
- Website templates might not be fully customizable.
- May not be a full-service marketing agency.
- Might require long contracts - it’s good to ask.
Which option is best?
There is no one answer for everyone. For some businesses a one page DIY website hosted on GoDaddy might be just the thing, likewise a company with more complex business or functional requirements might want to go down the path of a custom designed website. For many of the rest finding a good solutions agency, who for mostly fixed prices sets up and maintains an effective online presence is the way to go.